It was a late Friday night at the Terrace Theater a few weeks ago. Considering the time, 11 p.m., there was a lot of movement and sound. A song from the Talking Heads blared through the speakers while people milled about the lobby. Usually around now is when people are quietly leaving their movie of choice while the staff is closing down concessions. Not tonight. Tonight the theater is filled with sluts, assholes, and virgins. One Kinda Virgin was in a unique position: “Dude, I’ve been before but that was so many years ago that I’m sure I’ve regrown my cherry. I’m sure I need to get it popped again!”
Well, hell, that was verbal gold she just spit at me. Within seconds, in between sips from a fountain Coke, I was awkwardly entering autocorrected typos into my phone in a vain attempt at taking notes. While one theater was opening up for another screening of It, the hullabaloo in the lobby was all about Tim Curry’s (a.k.a. The Original Pennywise) other seminal role as Dr. Frank N. Furter — the sweet transvestite from Transexual Transylvania of The Rocky Horror Picture Show — gracing the screen. On it’s own, the film is a decent time to be had but if ever there was a film that had to be seen with an audience — this is it.
A few minutes later, I found myself in the theater’s office sitting across from a seemingly unassuming man in glasses sporting a shirt emblazoned with, in Star Wars font, “The Sarcasm Is Strong With This One.” Jody Carter grinned, recalling his love affair with The Rocky Horror Picture Show while the upbeat chaos was reduced to but a low rumble thanks to a closed door.
It all began in 1982 when Carter was a junior in high school. As a Rocky Horror virgin, he was wowed by the misfit musical. Along with his brother and a host of others, he began to take part in many screenings of the film, eventually becoming a part of the live shadow cast that normally accompanies the late night screenings. Having been in many of the shadow casts that have occurred in Charleston, Carter’s mission is simple,
“We’ve had people of all stripes here. I don’t care who you are. I want you to have fun. That’s the whole point of what we’re doing here.”
As the ringleader of the shadow cast, Carter’s passion for creating the ultimate interactive show is a labor of love. What money — if any — has been made is made from sales of survival kits (aka “shit to throw at the screen”) to virgins. That money is usually put back into the props and sets created to enhance the overall experience. Carter sees a cross-section of people brought together through vulgarity and debauchery, “I think if we took what we have in that audience, the world would be a better place.”
With showtime getting closer, he steps out to get into ringleader mode with the rest of the cast.
Upon entry, I was greeted by visuals from Russ Meyer’s Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! spilling from the screen. I would have continued watching the black-and-white misadventures of Billia, Varla, and Rosie if it weren’t for the damn audience. The Kinda Virgin was sitting upfront waiting to get re-deflowered. This audience of seemingly normal humans were like gremlins waiting for Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs to start. Normally when people file into a theater, they find their seat and do so relatively quietly. This was a packed, clamorous house. So packed that I eventually stood in a corner to watch it all go down. So clamorous that I had to lean in just to hear someone speak to me.
Whereas a loud packed house for a film like, say, everyone’s favorite mope-fest Manchester By The Sea, would be obnoxious, a loud packed house for Rocky Horror Picture Show was a lot more apropos. It was borderline heartwarming to see people this excited to watch a 42-year-old movie.
Soon, Jody, the man with the Star Wars font shirt and a friendly demeanor, emerged, with a seemingly more vulgar persona handing out a simple trigger warning that he will likely offend you with the off-color commentary he will yell during the screening.
With that, the cast pulled some virgins from the audience to the front. A moment later the virgin rituals were getting their lewd on — simulating missionary, doggy, one way, three way, any way but no way sex.
The lights soon dimmed as the film’s famous disembodied red lips sang of anticipation while audience members made dental hygiene jokes. Not long after the first appearance of the film’s protagonists Brad (“Asshole!”) and Janet (“Slut!”) I heard someone in the row beside me whisper, “Hey take your pants off.” Sure enough someone was in the process of getting pantsless while Jody continued with his commentary.
Right around this point, a skeleton popped up on screen with its hands hovering over the crotch. Jody blurts, “Holy shit it’s Hugh Hefner!” He leaned over and grinned, “You know you gotta keep it current. I would’ve gone with Ralphie May but the skeleton wasn’t big enough.”